Many of you might think there is no longer any need for tools to monitor your ranking in search engines like Google. After all, just by visiting Google Webmaster Tools you get visibility, ranking and click through information for each region, timeframe and search result type straight from the source.
The main drawback of using Google Webmaster Tools for ranking information, however, is that a view only ends up in the report when someone visited the page your website was on. If you rank beyond the first two result pages your search result is seldom seen and reported on.
So why would you want to know if you ranked 30th place for some obscure keyword combination? The main reason is link building. It is great to track how link building affects your ranking. Knowing what effect specific links have on your ranking makes your SEO effort much more effective.
Setting up Rank Monitoring
To get a great grasp on ranking effect you’ll need to monitor various keywords in multiple themes and several levels of competitiveness.
Once you’ve set up perfect SEO pages for each of these keywords their initial ranking shows in which theme your current link profile can compete against existing players.
Automated Ranking Checks
Tools that offer automated ranking checks have some disadvantages. The main one being Google really doesn’t like it. Ranking monitoring tools like SEOmoz, SEO Effect, Conductor, and Rio SEO have probably all seen their service break down when Google blocked their crawlers.
When personalized search becomes more important for ranking, these tools won’t be able to mimic user characteristics and they’ll need local crawlers to provide more accurate reporting (but that also applies to your manual checks).
When choosing the service that fits your needs, make sure you can monitor all your keywords in one account. Also choose a provider with local crawlers. For the European market SEO Effect provides great local coverage.
From Links to Ranking
If you have a broad link profile, you’ll see that you’ll reach top 10 positions for less competitive keywords across a wide range of themes. Top 30 positions will show what keywords are currently just beyond your grasp and keywords barely within the top 50 show there is still a long way to go, but you might just get there some day.
When you gather links within a more specific theme you should see ranking for more competitive keywords, but very little ranking effect will be seen beyond the thematic scope of your effort.
To achieve top 10 positions for more competitive keywords, you might just want to focus more on just that keyword combination, but this also brings a lot of risk. Once Google mistakes common denominators on large groups of links for unnatural behavior your link profile might collapse entirely.
The best link profiles have multiple layers of link building activities. These build up theme-by-theme and activity-by-activity. Few characteristics should show commonalities between these clusters of links. By continuously monitoring your ranking, you know which theme your next link building effort should focus on.
Using Ranking Information
Don’t share too much ranking information with your manager or clients. When people don’t sufficiently understand the basics of SEO, they will blame each individual effort, even though it might just have been the effort of your competitor, an algorithm change or the effect of time. You don’t want a lot of nervous people with each minute ranking shift.
Use ranking information to see if your effort moves it in the right direction, but don’t just give up when it doesn’t, at first. Some approaches with a great short-term ranking effect might not last very long.